The Best Way To Prepare Your Kids for Summer Camp

Summer Camp time is right around the corner.

| 19 Apr 2024 | 12:20

With just a few months to go until the school year ends and summer vacation starts, you want to make sure that you and your child are ready for the camp experience. Here are a few tips on how to best prepare, especially if it is the first time going to day camp for younger kids or older children packing up to go to sleep away camp for the first time.

Talk about camp–Now is a great time to start talking about camp again. Have discussions about what your child can expect and all the activities the camp has. Rewatch camp videos to build excitement and allow your child to ask questions, especially if you are still making the final decision on which one to choose. But don’t delay much longer if you have not made the final choice. Good summer camps could be close to full capacity and you don’t want to be shut out. If you don’t have the answers, reach out to the camp director to get them.

Validate your child’s feelings–It’s common for a child to feel nervous before any new experience, including camp. Validate your child’s feelings and share your confidence at the same time. You can use phrases such as “It’s ok to be nervous about camp and I’m going to help you work through those nerves. I know you are going to have a great time at camp.”

Share positive messages – It’s also totally normal for parents to be feeling anxious about their child going to camp. Questions may swirl through your mind about whether they will make friends or be homesick. Do your best to not share your own nerves with your child. Share only positive messages with your child about the amazing experience they will have. They need to know that you feel good about them going to camp and if you show anxiousness, they will too.

New camper orientation–Both day and overnight camps host new camper orientations and get-togethers. Do your best to go. It will be helpful for your child to meet the staff and new campers in the camp environment so that one day one, they will see some familiar faces and feel comfortable in the camp setting which will put them at ease.

Get-togethers with other new campers–Many parents reach out directly to other parents of new campers to set up playdates before camp. These get-togethers can work out nicely but keep in mind they can sometimes backfire. When there is no common ground yet, such as being at camp together, these get-togethers can feel awkward. If you are going to try to schedule a date before camp, try and make it an activity that will keep them busy together. You also may want to reach out to the director to match you with a child that will be a good fit for your child.

Don’t make pick up deals for overnight camp–Parents often want to save their child from uncomfortable feelings but remember, that is where the growth happens! Try not to tell your child before camp that you will pick them up if they are unhappy. This only sends the message that you don’t believe they will have a good time.

Go over camp items together–Whether shopping together or packing side-by-side, going over the items that your child will bring for day or overnight camp is a good way for your child to feel prepared. They will know what’s in their bag and it’s also a good time to talk about camp. Less is more for the youngest of campers going to overnight camp. Sometimes campers have so much stuff that it can feel overwhelming.

Fill out those forms–If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to finish up the camp forms and make those doctor appointments. While the forms can be a lot of work, camp directors need them to learn more about your child for group/bunk placements and to have your medical records on file before camp begins.

Speak with the director–If you have any questions about how best to prepare your child or if your camper is having extreme nervousness, contact the director. They are there to partner with you to help make camp a wonderful experience for your child.

Jess Michaels is the director of communications for the Camp Association of New York and New Jersey.